This particular day, as so many, I was getting ready for work in our midtown apartment (in our pre-Cranford days), having my coffee, reading the Wall Street Journal and watching a NY1 (the local cable news channel) segment called “In the Papers”, where the anchor skims through the dailies and points out amusing things in each one. Saved me $2.25 and some time, and a cheap segment for NY1.

They cut away from that and showed a grainy image of the WTC from the Empire State Building. My view out my own window was better – we could see Tower One from our apartment. One Penn Plaza blocked Tower Two.

I had spent just about then entire month of June on the 99th floor of Tower One negotiating and finalizing an agreement with Marsh, the insurance brokers. One thing that I noticed when we met in the southwest conference room on the 99th floor was that some of the commuter planes heading towards LaGuardia would fly below us and pretty close.

When I saw the hole in Tower One, that is what I originally thought had hit the building, even though the commuter planes come from the south. But the hole was too big.

I called a couple of the people I knew at Marsh but the calls did not go through. I called a colleague who worked on the contract with me and she wasn’t around.

Then the day unfolded in front of me as it did for everybody else.  I saw the second plane hit in a grainy picture on NY1, when all I needed to do was turn my head and I could have seen it plainly out my window.

As with everyone, the realization that it was not an accident at all was instant.

I was on the phone with my brother when the Tower Two came down, so he got the “oh the humanity” description of events.  Knowing that on a given day, 25,000 could be in the tower (a fun fact made known after the ’93 bombing), I figured 10,000 died, including people in the plaza.

My wife came home early – noting that as she walked home through midtown shops were still open, people were drinking lattes and frappucinos and so many were oblivious. Our DSL stayed up for a little while  – enough to get a “we’re okay” email out as the phones and cell phones were out.

That afternoon we were thankful that the wind blew towards the south. The next day the city was still and very quiet. For something, anything to do I went over to the Red Cross on 66th street, where thousands lined up to give blood. They used the MLK high school gym as a waiting room and I waited 12 and 1/2 hours in order to give. But I am pretty sure that it was almost certainly thrown away three weeks later. There were so few injured to give it to.

In the next few days the “missing” posters were everywhere. I didn’t understand why so many expended the effort to plaster the notices all over. It was obvious. If their loved ones didn’t turn up by that night, they weren’t going to turn up at all.

I checked a website that someone had set up for Marsh employees to check on the welfare and whereabouts of their employees. I combed the list for people I had met. There were at least a half a dozen listed as missing. One whom I met miraculously survived, and you can see him if you look at the French documentary, in a small group leaving the elevator just before Tower One collapsed.

For people who lived in the city then, the smell will not easily be forgotten. A couple of evenings while the towers still burned the wind shifted and blew the smoke towards us. An awful, acrid smell that was part rubber, part chemical, part flesh. Even closing the windows and blasting the A/C wasn’t enough to block it out. I can only imagine what the Brooklynites and Staten Islanders put up with while the towers burned.

And for a short while, people were nice to each other.

Someone asked if I would ever be tired of being asked about “where I was” that day. I won’t ever tire of being asked about. I have a picture of Lower Manhattan with the business cards of the people I knew who were killed mounted underneath. I won’t forget them. I won’t forget that they were penalized incalcuably for showing up to work a little early, and undeservedly so.

I don’t know if it is my upbringing, my politics, or the fact that I had a secondary connection (i.e. no family or close friends, but customers) with those in the buildings.

But I see that unbelievable viciousness and pure evil, and am mystified that there are so many who don’t recognize that anything that could cradle and nurture that evil is something that must be stopped. It can’t be reasoned with. It can’t be negotiated with. Stopped.

So no, I’ll never tire of being asked, because if my little story can open someone’s eyes and help them realize the senselessness and barbarity of that day, it’s worth it.

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